Cleveland EMS: Sacrificing the Sacred Lamb or a Witch Hunt?

Cleveland EMS: Word cannot describe my feelings right now

I was reading through my feeds the other day and came across an article from my home state about Cleveland EMS.

If you recall, several months, maybe even years ago Cleveland EMS changed their response matrix that they would not respond to Alpha or Bravo level calls. Those calls being coded according to interrogated answers in what I am assuming is ProQA. The answers are then fed into the system and the computer or cards pops out a code or response level. From there, the dispatcher determines the appropriate response based on that particular agency’s standard operating procedures.

Cleveland’s SOP states that unless they have a certain number of ambulances available, they will not respond to lower priority calls until they have ambulances available. This was a very controversial approach but it’s one I support from working in a high volume system, with many of those calls being non-emergent.

It was only a matter of time before some “horror story” came up and this one caught my eye.

Let me paraphrase the article. The caller, Beth Gangidine, states that she gave her son John his medication. It doesn’t say if this was a pill or a liquid, but he began coughing and sputtering, and since his ability to swallow is compromised, she called 911. The dispatcher, I am assuming she appropriately used ProQA and codes the call into the “11” category for choking, possibly an “11A1” which is coded for “Not choking now.”

The dispatcher, seeing that this was coded into non-emergent, looks at the computer screen and notices that the minimum number of ambulances ARE NOT in service, so she tables the call as per her protocol.

The big issue here is that the tabled the call, but has anyone asked Ms. Gangidine exactly WHAT she told the dispatcher? I am going to imagine this one:

“911, what’s your emergency?’

“”He’s having this real bad coughing gag after I gave him his medicine,” in her own words (quoted from article)

“Is he still breathing?”


“Due to our current call volume, we are unable to dispatch an ambulance at this time, but as soon as one is available, we’ll send them out immediately,” said the dispatcher (quoted from article).

I don’t see a problem here. Now the EMS Commissioner is involved, and his lack of intelligence and extreme mismanagement of EMS is Cleveland is not quite to the Detroit or DCFEMS level yet, but it’s close. This is the same guy that blamed Memphis for all of Cleveland’s EMS ills and is probably still bitter that we have better management and a set schedule, unlike his organization that pulls mandatory OT and works people 6 out of 7 days for sometimes 16 and 18 hours straight. But, I digress…

Now he is investigating the DISPATCHER for incorrectly coding the call. Really? A person taking most likely a liquid medication, coughing, conscious, moving air, and otherwise OK other than he’s coughing and the CALL WAS CODED WRONG? I seriously doubt that the Commissioner of Cleveland EMS has a clue that he is about to undermine the whole purpose of changing the dispatch protocols in the first place, and is embarking on a witch hunt that started on HIS desk. You shouldn’t place the blame on someone doing their job in accordance with procedures YOU created to “ease the burden.” That’s called “scapegoating,” Mr Eckart, and it’s just plain wrong. If you were anything of a stand up guy you would take this one yourself instead of trying to place the blame elsewhere. Remember this Commissioner Eckart?

You want more medics to staff more ambulances so you can take on these calls? Treat the ones you have better. In the mean time, don’t sacrifice your own people to a monster you created.

This article was written by rstine

  • People need to understand the purpose behind EMS is to respond to life threatening emergencies. We are not a taxi service. The worst thing to happen to EMS was when it became a private enterprise.

  • People need to understand the purpose behind EMS is to respond to life threatening emergencies. We are not a taxi service. The worst thing to happen to EMS was when it became a private enterprise.